The Economy

Go For a Walk and Boost the Economy

A worldwide increase in exercise would energize the economy because of lower mortality rates, reduced absenteeism, and increased employee engagemen...
David McCannNovember 14, 2019
Go For a Walk and Boost the Economy

As most people know, exercise is a healthy activity. It lowers the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, breast and colon cancer, and diabetes, and has been associated with positive effects on mental health.

Oh, and more exercise would help the economy, too.

If all adults aged 18 to 64 worldwide walked 15 additional minutes per day, it would inject an average of $100 billion per year into the global economy through 2050, according to an academic study commissioned by health and wellness solutions provider Vitality and performed by nonprofit research institute RAND Europe.

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The gains would derive from a reduction of premature deaths in the working-age population (i.e., more people alive and contributing to the economy) and increased productivity driven by reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (i.e., lack of engagement at work).

Further, the findings show that if all physically inactive adults were to reach the World Health Organization’s recommended exercise levels, employees would gain up to five additional days of productive time each year and the world economy would grow by an estimated $220 billion annually.

And if people who are currently active increased their physical activity by 20%, the global economy could grow by more than $360 billion every year, equivalent to the size of Singapore’s economy, according to the study. Economic gains for the U.S. economy would be $95 billion a year until 2050.

Mortality risk is between 11% and 28% lower for physically active people vs. inactive ones, according to the study.

Those who are not physically active are absent from work between 0.44 and 0.86 days per year more than are those who are inactive. The effect on presenteeism is much larger, though, with physically inactive individuals losing the equivalent of 2.6 to 3.7 days of productivity per year.

The study used statistical modeling to examine the associations between physical activity and a number of outcomes such as productivity, mortality, and health care costs. It also employed a multi-country macroeconomic model that enabled researchers to assess how the overall economic output of a country could be affected by improving the population’s physical activity levels.